So, two months ago I ran a marathon. That happened. And I haven’t run one single step since the race. Instead I’ve been eating everything in sight (raclette, french fries and kebabs, oh my!). But that doesn’t mean this was one of the best experiences of my life.
Up through my 17 mile training run I wore Vibram five fingers. Yes, that’s right, those funny toe shoes you see some crazy people wearing. Well, let me tell you, these are the only reason I was able to stay injury free and keep running. They completely changed the way I run, and for the better. No more ankle and knee injuries at all since I switched to running only in these a year an a half ago. Plus, when you run through a field wearing them, the dandelions get stuck between your toes!
On that 17 mile run, I felt fine, but my feet were so, so, so sore afterwards. I bought a pair that were a half size too small, and instead of returning them I thought I could just break them in and stretch them out. Wrong. My foot got messed up and it hurt. So I found a pair of zero-drop shoes with lots of cushioning to help deal with running while my foot was still in pain. So these shiny puppies were what I ended up running the race in.
The day of the race it was pouring. Absolutely pissing down rain. I was completely unprepared – the weather report had said only a 10% chance of rain for the day. Thank god for some company handing out free ponchos in the race expo, and at least it wasn’t freezing. Because the race went through the city of Luzern and all the main roads were shut down, there was a boat to take people from the main train station to the starting line. On the boat a woman sat on the seat across from me. We got to chatting (because that’s what I do when I’m nervous) and it turns out she lived in Amsterdam but is American, and was trying to run races in as many countries as she can. Up to 18 so far and has another 5 planned for the next 6 months. Pretty cool if you ask me. She tried to suggest I sign up for the Marrakesh half marathon in January, but I don’t think I can justify another international trip at this point in my thesis-writing process. Anywho, we navigated the pre-race process (drop off bags, find out where everything is, etc) together and ran the beginning together as well. It was nice to have a buddy around to keep the nerves at bay.
I ditched the poncho at mile 3 because the rain let up, but then it came back and continued through mile 10. Luckily my outfit helped boost morale.
Besides the tutu, the only thing that kept me on target and mentally positive through the whole race was the pacer (they hire people to run the race at a certain pace with huge balloons attached to them so you can identify them) I ran with for pretty much the whole race, Reto. He was absolutely incredible. Just an all around fantastic human being. It was like having my own personal cheerleader and coach all rolled into one the whole way. He chatted with me when I needed to chat, was incredibly positive and motivational, kept checking on the 3 or 4 of us running with him making sure people stopped at the aid stations, and bless his heart, when we hit kilometer 40 and he said “ok, now we go a little bit faster up to the end” and my response through my whimpering was to tell him “no, there’s no way” still ran just a little bit ahead of me to try to motivate me to go faster – even though he was supposed to be keeping the pace to 4:30 made sure he stayed with me even though it meant finishing 1 minute 22 seconds slower than the goal. He kept insisting “no problem, it’s my job” when I would thank him, but you can tell that this was way more than that to him. I swear to God, that man is a saint. I would willingly have given him my first born child.
For the first 16 miles I felt good. Really good. So good I contemplated running faster than my target pace, but made myself take it easy in case I needed extra energy at the end. Thank goodness I did. I almost cried once I passed mile 19 just from the emotional experience of running farther than I had before, but then I tried not to cry, which made my throat close up and I had to pause to be able to breathe normally again. Overall the race felt great up until 22 as well, and then the positive mental attitude I had up until that point started to crumble. But I kept telling myself that my legs knew better than my brain, so I shouldn’t listen to my brain, and then I was ok until about mile 25. Those last 2 1/2 km were awful. Simply awful. I was whimpering like a puppy. Actual whimpering noises were coming out of my mouth. No joke. Total wall. It didn’t help that by that time the participants in the 5 mile race were finishing as well and were ZOOMING past me. Then once I crossed the finish line the same crying/breathing thing happened and one of the medics walked with me for a few steps and kept asking if everything was okay until I was able to tell him that yes, I’m fine, just emotional. That was caught on one of the video clips they took of all the runners, so I get to relive that moment over and over again. Awesome.
Never again will I claim to not like running because it’s too much of an individual sport – at least for us slow pokes there’s no competition with other people, only with ourselves, and everyone wants everyone else to do as well as they can.
Now if I can only convince myself to get up off my butt and start running again. Signing up for another race should do the trick. This was such a wonderful way to relieve stress, and I have another one month before I submit my thesis and another two months before I defend, so I could definitely use some continued stress relief.